A Prayer to God My Light

“Because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.” (Luke 9:2)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1a)

Lord, You are my light—
the sunrise shining upon my life
with salvation beams of brilliance
bathing me in divine joy and mercy.

Lord, You be my light—
in a world still starved for light
and buried in death’s darkness,
deliver us through Your saving work.

Lord, You will be my light—
in the end of all things
in the new heaven and earth,
Your brilliance bursting forth fully upon us.

A Prayer by Walter Brueggemann – “Sustained by Angels”


Maybe we have not thought much about Satan,
either in glib self-regard,
or in rejection of such silly speculation,
or in a way more urbane and benign
than to imagine such a character.

Except that as we begin our strenuous Lenten trek,
we are aware that the power of resistance is at work in our midst,
that the force of negation is alive and well,
that our best will is contradicted
by stuff that surges
against our best selves,
that we, even we, are prone to our
several addictions that render us helpless.

So we pray in the Lenten season,
give us primitive freedom to
take full stock of Satan and the power of
evil still among us in our prosperity
and pride an sophistication,
and give us primitive openness
to your ministering angels
who are present with care and gentleness
and great nourishment.

In the Lenten season, give us freedom
to reconfigure our lives
as a testing field between the force of Satan
and the food of your angels.

Enter our lives with power for newness,
deliver us from a sense of naïve mastery,
and give us honest contact with our vulnerability.

Enter the deep places of our life and claim us for your purposes.
We would be more free than we are,
more bold than we dare,
more obedient than we choose.

We wait for the gift of your large gift of life
that will wrench us away from death
to the miracle of Easter joy. Amen

By Walter Brueggemann, biblical scholar and teacher, from Prayers for a Privileged People.

How Long?: learning to pray in difficult times with Habakkuk

“How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

One of the most unique aspects of the prophecies of Habakkuk is that Habakkuk speaks directly to God instead of to the people of Israel. Unlike most of the prophets who are bringing a word to the people, Habakkuk does this indirectly, standing before God with his questions and relating God’s words to the people in response. His starting is a question: “how long?” This question arises many times in the Bible, but particularly in the Psalms.  In the Psalms, “how long?” is the prayer that cries out over the wrongs of the world again and again:

  • Psalm 6:3 – “My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?”
  • Psalm 13:1-2 – “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
  • Psalm 74:10 – “How long will the enemy mock you, God? Will the foe revile your name forever?”
  • Psalm 89:46 – “How long, Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire?”

“How long?”’” is humanity’s question for God in the midst of wrong and violence. And that is exactly what Habakkuk sees: violence. With a parallel pattern common in Hebrew poetry, he throws together pairs of words that reflect what is before him:

  • Injustice and wrongdoing
  • Destruction and violence
  • Strife and conflict

But ironically, the source of this violence and wrongdoing is not where we would expect it in opponents like Assyria and Babylon. Instead, the violence and wrongdoing are within his own people. God’s people. It is because of this that, as he says in verse 4, “the law – torah – is paralyzed.”

Habakkuk’s “how long?” is the cry over the unexpected wrongs rising up within his nation as the truth of God is rejected and seems powerless in the midst of the troubles gathering around.

“How long?” is humanity’s question in the apparent absence of God, as we read in verse 2: “I call for help, but you do not listen?…I cry out to you…but you do not save?”

Many times our “how long?” is a cry for God to act that leaves us wondering if God is absent? We may wonder at times, as the troubles of our world and our lives boil around us, where is God and what is going on? In these times we may resonate with the German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, who wrote: 

I feel as though I make my way 
through massive rock
like a vein of ore
alone, encased.

I am so deep inside it
I can’t see the path or any distance:
everything is close
and everything closing in on me
has turned to stone.

Since I still don’t know enough about pain,
This terrible darkness makes me small.
If it’s you, though –

Press down hard on me, break in
That I may know the weight of your hand,
And you, the fullness of my cry.[1]

The “how long” is our cry, even without understanding, to God. But the difference between faith and lack of faith in troubling times is what we see right here with Habakkuk. The difference is that faith turns toward God in the midst of the troubles instead of turning away from God.

Habakkuk allows the troubles around him – even within him – to push him toward God. And in this place, he—and we, with him—begins to hear from God. Real faith helps us to talk with God…not turn away from God… in the midst of trouble.

[1] “Vielleicht, daß ich durch schweren Berge gehe ,” Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours, trans. Barrows and Macy, 127.

A Prayer of Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune.jpg

Father, we call Thee Father because we love Thee.
We are glad to be called Thy children,
and to dedicate our lives to the service that extends
through willing hearts and hands to the betterment of all mankind.
We send a cry of Thanksgiving for people of all races, creeds, classes, and colors the world over,
and pray that through the instrumentality of our lives
the spirit of peace, joy, fellowship, and brotherhood shall circle the world.
We know that this world is filled with discordant notes,
but help us, Father, to so unite our efforts
that we may all join in one harmonious symphony
for peace and brotherhood, justice, and equality of opportunity for all men.
The tasks performed today with forgiveness for all our errors,
we dedicate, dear Lord, to Thee.
Grant us strength and courage and faith and humility
sufficient for the tasks assigned to us.

By Mary McLeod Bethune, missionary and civil rights advocate.